Book Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Happy Friday, everyone!

A lot has happened this past week – I’m still getting used to my mysterious new font, the government announced Germany would be going back into lockdown starting next week ( *Yay, now that I’m finally almost done with exams and would actually have time to do stuff* πŸ˜…), and I passed 200 followers on this blog!!! πŸŽ‰πŸŽˆπŸ₯³ Honestly, guys, I’m speechless. Seriously, why do you like my posts this much? I am beyond flattered that so many of you are willing to return after being hit with the full force of my ramblings, and even respond to them. I’m so happy to have you, and I hope you know how much I cherish being able to interact with you! 😊

Anyway, since I pretty much only read textbooks in September and didn’t end up writing any book reviews then, you’re getting two this week! Well… maybe that isn’t the real reason.

To be entirely truthful, I am also writing this in response to my Can You Guess My Favorite Books? post, in which I promised to review a book recommended to me by the winner of that challenge. Anyway – shoutout to Abby @ Beyond the Read and Line @ First Line Reader, you guys did amazing! I already reviewed Line’s pick, The Winternight Trilogy, earlier this week, so now it’s Abby’s turn. And being the kind soul that she is, Abby recommended I go read Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn, knowing fully well that I was dying to get to this anyway. It had been on my desperately-need-to-buy-list ever since Althea @ Althea is Reading told me it included my favorite trope ever, a.k.a. “a girl disguises herself as a boy to get what she otherwise wouldn’t have access to”. You have no idea how much I love these types of stories, and Abby gave me the perfect excuse I needed to finally grab myself a copy of this one 😁 So thank you, Abby!!!


Overall, I’d agree that Spin the Dawn is a solid start to a YA fantasy series inspired by Asian mythology. While I didn’t think it was absolutely amazing, I did thoroughly enjoy reading it, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next installments. The main character was a heroine you couldn’t help but root for, and I loved how vivid the setting and writing style were! My only complaint is that, in my opinion, the political aspects of the story were very much pushed aside in the second half, which ended up being centered primarily around the romance. But since our love interest was rather swoon-worthy, I guess I’m (mostly) willing to forgive…

My rating:

4 stars

4/5 Stars

The Story

Finlei used to tease that, from behind, I looked exactly like Keton – reedy as a boy. The freckles on my face and arms didn’t help, either. Girls were supposed to be delicate and pale. But maybe, maybe all this could work in my favor.

I couldn’t sing or recite poetry. I couldn’t dance. I didn’t have grace or charm or wiles. But I could sew. Heavens, I could sew.

Spin the Dawn, p. 24

Spin the Dawn follows Maia Tamarin, the youngest of four children and the only girl. Ever since her mother died, Maia has been taking over more and more responsibilities in her father’s shop – and she’s a natural. She loves sewing more than anything, and she has always dreamed of becoming the greatest tailor A’Landi has ever seen. The only problem: This position is forbidden to women.

One day, however, a royal messenger arrives at the Tamarins’ doorstep to summon Maia’s father, a renowned dressmaker before the war, to court, where the position of imperial tailor has opened up. Maia knows her father is too frail to make the journey, but her family desperately needs the money – so she decides to go herself, disguised as her brother Keton. But the stakes are high: Competition is much tougher than Maia ever expected, and any misstep could lead to her discovery.

I’ve seen many people compare this to Mulan, and I do think it has similar vibes. Although the similarities also don’t go much further than “girl disguises herself as a boy to take her father’s place” and the Asian-inspired setting.

Still, I really loved Maia’s determination, the magic was pretty intriguing, and the romance definitely wasn’t bad. If you’re looking for some steamy YA with lots of yearning, you’ve come to the right place πŸ˜‰

The Writing

A patchwork of thick, gray clouds drifted across the sky, the seams so tight I could barely see the light behind them.

Spin the Dawn, p. 18

Elizabeth Lim’s writing hereby officially gets my stamp of approval πŸ˜‰ I loved how it managed to be fast-paced and simple, and yet still lyrical. There were mythological elements, wonderful descriptions of the country, the food, and all the clothing (I never thought I’d be this entranced by a shawl or a pair of shoes 😍), but those never went overboard or made the pacing drag. The banter between the characters often had me grinning, so I can only say: Writing-wise, this was right up my alley.

The Characters and the Plot


I didn’t like Calu. It wasn’t because he didn’t serve in the army – he hadn’t passed the imperial health examination, so he couldn’t. It was because as soon as I turned sixteen, he got it into his head that I was going to be his wife.

Spin the Dawn, p. 13

Like I said, I really enjoyed reading from Maia‘s perspective. I like how she knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to at least try to achieve her dreams. Seeing her run out on that horribly self-righteous Calu to chop off her hair and become an imperial seamstress instead was beyond satisfying. And, as stupid as her choice to free Edan from the emperor probably was, I kind of liked that she took action to do something she believed in and help someone she loved. Though I must admit – those red demon-eyes were just a tad creepy, and I’m a little scared of what the next book has in store for her…

Also, I loved Maia’s bond with her brothers! Strong sibling ties are always something I really appreciate in literature, and they were definitely present here. My heart melted when Keton immediately accepted his sister’s decision and started giving her all those tips on how to behave like a boy. And, even though they were dead, we found out so much about Maia’s other brothers that I truly feel as though I got to know them, too.

Hair Cutting GIF by Lizz Lunney

Then, of course, there were those magic scissors. Even though I’ve never been into sewing in my life, those would be so cool to have! And I really liked how Maia refused to use them at first. It may have been kind of dumb, but I totally understand that she would want to be valued for her own talent and not that of some weird magical object that was probably forbidden anyway. However, I’m kind of bummed that those scissors worked perfectly whenever Maia used them. I absolutely love training scenes where characters have to learn to control their magic, and we didn’t get any here because the scissors pretty much did everything by themselves… I know they supposedly only worked for people who already had that “something special”, but come on! Would it have been that hard to include a few scissoring lessons? Especially when we had an experienced enchanter present?

He’d followed me from the pond, his sleeves neatly folded up to showcase his long, elegant fingers. Unlike the emperor with his soft grace, he was all angles and shadow, the edges of his robe clinging to his thin frame. At least the light wasn’t caught in his eyes this time, so I could see they burned blue, pale as the heart of a flame. Normally, blue was my favorite color – but not on him.

Spin the Dawn, p. 70-71

Speaking of Edan – can I just mention that I’m getting a little tired of the “girl falls for ancient enchanter/vampire/fae male/djinn warrior/magician” trope? Seriously, in the last few months alone, I have come across it multiple times, and unless The Empire of Gold is a completely different story than the first two books in the Daevabad Trilogy, I’m about to read about it AGAIN. Granted, I do love Edan and Morozko, Dara is pretty alluring considering he’s also a mass murderer, and Edward is, well, Edward, but really? Can’t any of you fantasy authors come up with captivating fictional men who are at least roughly the same age as the women they’re dating? All these ancient geezers suddenly discovering their sex drives after centuries of celibacy are seriously creeping me out! Maybe I should consider adding an amendment to my Dating Tips for Book Nerds post where I recommend all you straight ladies just grab a shovel, go to the nearest graveyard, and dig up the oldest male corpse you can find… And then you better hope the guy miraculously comes back to life somehow, because without someone at least a hundred years older than you, you apparently don’t stand a chance at all-consuming love.

hawk GIF

Sorry – I guess I needed to get that out of my system 😁 Though I am definitely a hypocrite. Because even though Edan was ancient, I couldn’t help but fall for him. I mean – this guy fought off wolves in hawk form. How cool is that? He knew Maia’s secret all along, but decided to observe and help rather than turn her in. And that scene in the desert, where he and Maia were pretending to be married? My shipper heart almost burst πŸ₯° Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I was 100% into the romance and thought Edan was pretty darn swoon-worthy.

“It is the price we pay for our power. All enchanters must swear an oath – it prevents us from becoming too powerful, or too greedy. Magic is … addictive, you see. And over time, it can corrupt.”

Spin the Dawn, p. 239

By far the most interesting thing about Edan, though, was his bond with Emperor Khanujin. However, I do wish that aspect of the story had been explored just a bit further. Like – why was Edan able to leave the emperor so easily? Wouldn’t Khanujin have a bit of experience wording his orders? And even if Edan found a loophole, wouldn’t the emperor send people after him immediately? I mean, without Edan, the guy is weak beyond measure. Wouldn’t Khanujin’s enemies immediately exploit that? I would have loved to see more of how Edan’s leaving affected politics in A’Landi, especially regarding tensions with the shansen. But instead, the second half only focused on Maia getting the material for those dresses and falling more and more in love with Edan in the process. A bit more balance would have been nice.

I had just passed the magnolia courtyard when I heard a lady weeping. The sound was soft, almost lost amid crickets chirping.

Spin the Dawn, p. 103

The most intriguing character, however, was Lady Sarnai. At least I think so. There is so much we still don’t know about her, and I truly have no idea what her real agenda is. How much say did she really have in her marriage? What exactly is the nature of her relationship with Lord Xina? Why is she so resistant to the emperor’s charms? Is she in league with her father, or does she have her own agenda? I’m sure there’s way more to her than what meets the eye, and I can’t wait to discover what it is!

So yeah – those were some of my thoughts on Spin the Dawn! I’ll leave it at that for now, because I seriously have to start reading up on international news for my oral exam πŸ˜… My procrastination skills have been off the charts…

Anyway, what do you think? Have you read this book? Do you agree or disagree with anything I said? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

  1. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    Ahhh I’m so glad you enjoyed this one Naemi!!! Ahahahaha your rant there was perfection β€” I don’t have that much experience reading about centuries-old love interests but it does seem to be a recurring theme in YA fantasy πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    And omg yesssss the writing was amazing!! I loved how simplistic but descriptive it was 😍 And ahhhh I totally agree about needing more info about Khanujin and Edan!! I’m so curious about their relationship β€” and Lady Sarnai too! And now that you mention it, I’m really feeling the need for some more political intrigue in there. Apparently the second book is set entirely at the palace (I think??), so I’ll be looking forward to reading about all those power plays. I really need to stop procrastinating and get along to reading Unravel the Dusk 🀩

    And congrats congrats congrats on 200 followers β€” you totally deserve it!! Ahh sorry that you’re going into a second lockdown. Hopefully the second time is a bit better (and shorter) πŸ™‚ Amazing post Naemi!! πŸ’œπŸ’œ

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Hahaha, I’m definitely traumatized by all those old love interests πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ You’re so lucky you don’t have that much experience with them, because lately, they’re all I’ve been seeing! πŸ™ˆ

      Oooh, and I hope you’re right about the second book being set at the palace and having lots of political intrigue! I honestly have no idea because I tend to avoid synopses of sequels in fear of accidentally spoiling myself πŸ˜… But I’d be all here for that! As well as loads of Khanujin and Edan and Lady Sarnai background 😊

      Thanks so much for reading and stopping by, Abby!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Strawberrys Corner says:

    I hadn’t heard of this book before actually and this was a great review for it! I did skip a big chunk because you warned for spoilers and after just reading what it was about, yeah, I want to read it haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yeah, I would’ve spoiled you for just about every major plot point if you’d read that part, so good choice skipping it! πŸ˜‚ But I just had to talk about spoilers with this one; there were so many things I needed to discuss!
      But I hope you enjoy it if you do decide to read it! πŸ˜‰ And if you want, you can come back and read the spoilers afterwards 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Markus + Micah says:

    Oh, nice review. It does sound interesting! I have not heard of many YA books talking about Asian mythology, very intriguing. Sorry to hear you are on lockdown again, and I hope you find ways to enjoy your time regardless. Stay safe and healthy and congratulations on 200 followers. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Thank you!! 😊 And yeah, I haven’t really seen that many YA books with Asian mythology, either. The Bone Witch also has a little, but I thought that book dragged a bit… πŸ˜… So I did really enjoy Spin the Dawn’s take on it, and hope the sequel dig even deeper into the mythological background!


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